Tag Archives: Malolactic Fermentation

2014 Sauvignon Blanc/Merlot Status

2014 Sauv Blanc


This was a very good year for different wines at Turtle Vines.  Not only are we going to have 3 different Pinot’s (see previous post), but we ended up with 21 gallons of Sauvignon Blanc and 9 gallons of Merlot.  The Merlot is from rogue plants in the Pinot vineyard.

The Pinot is now put to bed in our outdoor wine room as it has finished malolactic fermentation.  However, since we picked the Sauvignon Blanc and Merlot in October, and it takes 4-6 weeks to finish ML, I moved them into the house until Thanksgiving.  At that time, I’ll rack, adjust the pH/TA, remove the oak from the Merlot, and sulfur them.

One last note…we tasted the Merlot and think it will turn out great…so good in fact that I may not graft them out of the Pinot vineyard, but live with the hassle while we farm.

2014 Pinot Noir – Time to sleep?

2014 pinot samples

This time of year the vineyard is losing its leaves, the wine has finished primary fermentation and you get a small break to catch your breath and find out if your wine is ready to age.  What does that mean?  Well, first you have to see if the malolactic fermentation is complete.  Then determine the acid profile (pH/TA).  Get an alcohol content to pay taxes to the Feds.  Finally, taste the wine and see if the oak has incorporated into the wine and you are ready to rack, sulfur and put the wine to sleep until spring.

We are sending off samples this week and will find out our status and make adjustments if necessary.  We did a taste taste last night and it is so interesting that the Pommard and 667 clones are so distinct in taste.  We think some of it is due to the clonal differences, some from the fact that the Pommard was riper with more raisin’ed berries, and some that the Pommard looked to start fermentation prior to our inoculation with Assmanhausen yeast.  The best news is both taste great at this point in time and we will find out in 9 months which is better for the 2015 vintage!  I’m guessing for 2014 we will make three Pinot’s…Pommard, 667 and a Reserve wine that is a blend of the two clones.  We are really looking forward to our blending party in August!

2014 pinot in room


I moved the wine into our new temperature controlled wine room anticipating the ML had finished.

wine room temp


Wine room temperature/humidity.

garage temp


Garage temperature.

Don’t press wine with a white shirt!

Dirty shirt after press


Sometimes you can plan when to press and pick…sometimes it plans for you.  Last week we had a hot spell and the Pinot for Turtle Vines had to be harvested.  This week I thought I had another day of fermenting the Pommard clone…but when I checked at noon on the 9/17…it was ready!  So…I really should have changed my white hemp shirt…but we just started pulling out and cleaning the pressing equipment.   Three hours later we had 96 gallons of pressed juice.  On 9/18 I inoculated with malolactic and will rack on 9/19 and add Xoakers (oak balls).  The 667 clone will get pressed on 9/19.  I think that will go to plan as the temperature had cooled off.

Results from Lab on MLF Status and other Tests



I wanted to test if our 2013 Turtle Vines Pinot Noir had finished malolactic fermentation, so I sent a sample to the lab on Dec 9th..  You can also just look/listen to the wine.  If the wine is warm and you no longer have small bubbles coming to the surface or when you open the top and you don’t hear the fermentation…it is complete.  However, I have the wine in the garage where it is cold, so instead of warming it up, I took a sample to the lab.  In addition, I had them perform other needed tests so it seemed like a good time to get those done.

Alcohol                      13.94    %                Perfect for a pick at 24 brix
Glucose + Fructose   0.175  %                 Very dry, you can taste sugar at 0.2%
Malic Acid                   5         mg/100ml   <30 is considered complete
Volatile Acidity          0.071  g/100ml      <0.075 is considered good for red wine
TA                                0.465  g/100ml     A little low, will see how it tastes later


Everything looks great!  It is now time to sulfur.



Malolactic Fermentation…sequential or co-inoculation/fermentation?

sb 2013


I have been reading a lot lately on the timing of malolactic fermentation for wines.  Just so you know what I talking about…alcohol fermentation is when the yeast convert the sugar to alcohol and malolactic fermentation is when bacteria convert the harsher malic acid to softer lactic acid.  Prior to having commercially available bacteria in 1996, the malolactic process happened on its own.  Sometime after alcohol fermentation finished the wine still fizzed and bubbled for weeks, and in many time continued until the spring when the wine warmed up.  When that stopped the wine was ready to sulfur.  In order to control the process better, many wineries now introduce malolactic bacteria, then question is when…

Malolactic bacteria grow well when the pH is above 3.2 (the higher the better), when the temperature is above 55F and when the alcohol level is low.  This would indicate to introduce the bacteria right after the alcohol fermentation has started.  In addition, most people report a fruitier wine with co-fermentation.  However, In some cases this will cause the primary fermentation to stall.  The really big benefit is that the process completes very early and you can protect your wine with sulfur just a few weeks after primary fermentation has completed.

If you wait until after alcohol fermentation the temperature has dropped and the alcohol is at its peak, so the malolactic process will take around 30 days longer or more.  In addition, for Pinot Noir, if you co-ferment you will probably lose color.  But, sequential fermentation seems to produce a more structured, powerful wine, whereas co-fermentation may “round” things off to much.

So, what to do with my set up since I put the wine in a cool place after fermentation?  Given my pH is high, I want good color for my Pinot, and I don’t want a stuck fermentation…I’m going with the sequential process.  I just have to monitor the process closely and  leave it on its lees for added protection before I sulfur.




It has Oaked Enough!

Oak out of barrel


Has it oaken enough?  Always a difficult question but much more controllable since we use Flextanks and Oak Balls.  If you were reading any of the September posts, we pressed on 9/23/13 and racked and oaked on 9/24/13.  The vendor recommended that the oak go in during malolactic fermentation to smooth integration of oak to the wine.  They said it should remain for approximately 8 weeks for maximum extraction.  We took them out 12/3/13 so it was 10 weeks…I tasted the wine and it was very nice.  It has not fully finished malolactic fermentation, but I think it will be a great vintage!

Wine asleep for the Winter!

2013 Wine

All of our 2013 wine is now set for the winter.  The Pinot Noir is undergoing malolactic fermentation and probably won’t finish for at least a month or longer depending on the temperature of the garage.  The Sauvignon Blanc is finishing primary fermentation and we will introduce malolactic bacteria in a few weeks when we rack a third time.

So…31 cases of Pinot Noir (we sold 2.1 tons of grapes) and 4.7 cases of Sauvignon Blanc!


2013 Sauvignon Blanc – Pick/Destem/Press/Rack/Ferment

jeanette and Joey


We waited for Joey’s friend Jeanette to arrive from Texas and then picked, destemmed and pressed our Sauvignon Blanc.

We ended up with 200 pounds (enough for 4 1/2 cases).  Brix 21.5, pH 3.6 and TA 3.9.  Just about perfect…with very nice flavor and brown seeds.  Last year we picked at the same time as the Pinot, but this year I put a little to much fruit on the vines so it had to ripen for an extra 6 weeks.


Joey Grapes


Joey with her harvest


grapes and press


We pulled out all the same equipment as with the Pinot.  The real exception with white vs red is you ferment the red on its skins and with the white you press it right away.  The press held the 200 pounds easily, in fact I think we could have had 600 pounds in the 170L press.


sb 2013


Here is the wine after we racked the gross lees.  You can see that the fermentation has started after we added yeast on 10/21.  It should take around 8 days and then we will rack off the lees and add malolactic bacteria and let it ferment again for a few months.

Stirring Lees and of course, Tasting!



Our 2013 Pinot Noir is now 3 weeks in “barrel” resting on fine lees.  It is undergoing malolactic fermentation and I expect this will take another 1-3 months as the nights here are becoming chilly.

Another item we are doing differently this year is that we will stir our lees every few weeks.  The theory is that it will enhance the mouth feel of the wine.  So…I was off to TAP Plastics this morning to purchase a food grade 54″ long, 3/8″ diameter rod.  Worked like a charm.

And of course…had to have a little taste to start the morning out right.  It was wonderful and I think better than the 2012 at the same stage last year.  A side note…last year we added an enzyme for color and quicker clarification.  We found out this is not needed for Pinot Noir so we didn’t do it this year, but you could notice the wine is not as clear.  It will take a little longer to fall clear!


2013 Fermentation Log

For those interested in making wine…I’m documenting how long it takes to make Pinot Noir and the details of the fermentation. On the bottom, I’ll compare last year to this year…hoping that the changes we made will turn out as planned and increase the complexity of the 2013 wine.


9/10/13 – Harvest 837 pounds Pommard, 200 pounds 667, destem only, 30 ppm sulfur, 40 pounds of dry ice to begin cold soak. It is best to keep the must 9/12 40 pounds dry ice to continue cold soak
9/13 – 41 degrees in center, 60 degrees on the sides
9/14 30 pounds dry ice to continue cold soak
9/15 – Added 1.0 g/l tartaric acid, added 3 oz GoFerm in 1 quart of hot water. Cooled to 110 degrees F and added Assmanhausen yeast. Spread over the top of the bin and closed the cover
9/16 – 10am Yeast smell with small colonies forming
* 3pm 60 degrees, punched down
* 6:45pm 65 degrees, punched down, cap forming
9/17 – 8am 66 degrees, punched down, cap 3-4″
* 11am 66 degrees, punched down
* 3pm 67 degrees, punched down
* 7pm 72 degrees, punched down, 23.5 brix
9/18 – 7:30am 66 degrees, punched down, 21.5 brix
* 1pm 71 degrees, punched down, 20.5 brix
* 5pm 76 degrees, punched down, 21 brix
* 7:30pm 78 degrees, punched down
9/19 – 6:15am 67 degrees, punched down, 16 brix
* 1:45pm 78 degrees, punched down, 14 brix
* 6:45pm 80 degrees, punched down, 11 brix, added 0.33 g/l tartaric acid
9/20 – 7am 67 degrees, punched down, 9.5 brix
* 10:30am 74 degrees, punched down, 8 brix
* 1:30pm 76 degrees, punched down, 6 brix
* 8pm 78 degrees, punched down, 6 brix
9/21 – 10:30am 72 degrees, punched down, 5.2 brix
* 1:30pm 74 degrees, punched down, 4.7 brix

9/22 – Almost done
9/23 – I’m anticipating here is when we will press!
9/24 – Rack of gross lees

Last year(2012) from the time we introduced yeast until the wine was dry (0 brix) was 5 days. This year we used a new “Destemmer Only” machine that did not crush the grapes. In addition we put the 1/2 ton bin in a shaded location. This has significantly lengthened our fermentation to 8 days and reduced the maximum cap temperature from 90 degrees in 2012 to 80 degrees in 2013. We are hoping this longer/cooler fermentation will lead to a more complex wine.  Also, we did not use enzymes to enhance the break down of the skins as this is not needed for Pinot Noir.  Enzymes are great for color, pressing and settling of the lees but with Pinot Noir you may lose some of the elegant characteristics.  Our color this year was fantastic and the flavor of the juice outstanding.

This year we will introduce our Toasted French Oak (Medium Plus) adjuncts immediately after pressing the grapes. This again will make a more complex wine since during malolactic fermentation the yeast and oak will interact. We will leave them in for 2-3 months, or when the taste is where we like it to be.